One of the most successful Lithuanian players in the NBA, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, is no longer Lithuanian citizen.
Today the order cancelling his Lithuanian citizenship has been signed by the Minister of Internal Affairs concluding the process that has been widely discussed in the media last year.
According to Lithuanian laws, double citizenship is not permitted except for rare cases. In 2013 Ilgauskas became a citizen of the United States of America after taking an oath of citizenship as required by American laws.
Lithuanian laws establish that in case a citizen takes a citizenship of another country, such person loses Lithuanian citizenship.
Ilgauskas admitted to Lietuvos rytas daily that he was aware of Lithuanian laws and the risk of losing Lithuanian passport when applying for American citizenship:
“I’ve spent half of my life in America. And I stay to live here. My kids and wife are here. All [my] life. I will only return to Lithuania to visit my parents.
“I wanted to have a right to vote during presidential elections in America, to vote for local authorities, after all, I’m paying taxes to this state. It has been good to me and my family.
“I didn’t take American citizenship after living here for several years. I am here for eighteen years. I knew what I am doing. It is the way it is.”
Despite admitting that he knew the possible consequences of receiving American citizenship, Ilgauskas wasn’t pleased when he realized that he’ll be losing Lithuanian passport:
“If the father is not good enough to Lithuanian bureaucrats then I will also send the passports of my sons. There will be three Ilgauskas less, it will be calmer for the state.”
Zydrunas Ilgauskas started playing in the NBA in 1996 after being picked 20th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He retired in 2011 as a member of the Miami Heat where he spent one season.
Despite being hit by serious foot injuries, Ilgauskas made it to the NBA All Star twice (2003 and 2005). Last year the Cavs retired his No. 11 as one of the club’s all-time greats.
The fans in his native Lithuania didn’t get the chance to see Big Z play for the national team, a topic that’s been surrounded by many controversies and often criticism, especially from the fans.
Lithuanian laws on dual citizenship have been a subject of many public discussions, especially during cases like that of Ilgauskas. The issue is getting more important with many emigrants establishing themselves in other countries, sometimes acquiring local citizenship or having their children born there.
Ilgauskas could still apply, now as a foreign citizen, to acquire Lithuanian citizenship as person for outstanding merits to the Republic of Lithuania. The last time he spoke he wasn’t interest in that:
“I need no privileges. Bureaucrats can kiss my butt. I haven’t done anything so important in Lithuania. Thank you. Keep that citizenship to yourselves. I need nothing exceptional.
“I’m no different from other Lithuanians who live in America, Europe or Australia. You either grant citizenship to everyone or no one.”